How to Get Influencers to Drive Your Word-of-Mouth Marketing Campaign
Finding the right influencers can help a brand increase sales, drive growth and inspire long-term customer loyalty.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
In today's digitally saturated world, it has become nearly impossible for consumers to escape the constant chorus of brands vying for attention and "engagement," so many people are tuning out. According to Nielsen, 92 percent of Americans trust recommendations from family and friends (i.e. word of mouth) more than any other form of marketing.
While word-of-mouth marketing can be a complex undertaking, there are three key elements that form the foundation of any successful word-of-mouth campaign: understanding influencers, finding the right ones and then giving them a "talkable" story that they will want to carry from person to person.
Related: How to Connect With High-Profile Influencers
Influencers are the key to word-of-mouth marketing, as they are the people that are sharing stories all the time. All you have to do is get them to spread stories about your brand or product.
Having studied, thought about and worked with these people over the course of my career, I have observed that all influencers share three personality traits:
1.They share stories to bond. For influencers, sharing stories is an expression of love, and they share stories to build ties with the people around them.
2.They like to try new things because they're new.Stories about new things provide fresh content for influencers, so they are always in search of them.
3.They are intrinsically motivated. True influencers will be driven away by things like rebates and discounts, because they will feel that you're trying to buy their loyalty rather than earn it. Influencers want to share, not sell. Do everything you can to make that possible.
If you want to find influencers, here are three rules to follow:
Let them come to you. There are plenty of agencies and research firms that would be thrilled to take your money to help you find the people who are most likely to be influential in your category but there is an easier and far more effective way to attract influencers. Get some good bait and dangle it in the water. Like fish, the truly passionate people will come to you.
Use the right bait. Influencers are swimming around in a sea of information, but they are always looking for new stories to consume. In the case of marketers, your bait is a story about your brand or product, and it has to be something worth talking about.
Related: How Influencers Should Be Compensated by Brands
Fish where the fish are. People of similar interests have a tendency to congregate. Figure out where your fish are schooling and then take your bait to them. Tell your story in a fan forum, drive your new pickup to the parking lot of a monster truck event or show off your amazing new sweeper in front of parents lining up to see Santa.
Giving influencers a 'talkable' story
Before you can throw your bait in the water, you have to figure out what story to use for the particular fish you want to catch. For an influencer to take your bait, your story must be interesting, relevant and authentic.
Let's start with a bad example of influencer bait. Let's say your company makes a highchair that is so wonderfully designed it's been included on lists of the best designed items on earth. Now, here comes the 75th anniversary of your company, and you want to sing it from the mountaintops. Well, guess what? Other than your employees and 20 fans worldwide, nobody cares.
Too many companies want to talk about stuff that matters greatly within their four walls but isn't likely to inspire a single conversation outside of them. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that just because it's important to you, it's interesting to anybody else.
Here's some good influencer bait: a new study shows that children who use your highchair sit in an adult chair and feed themselves far earlier than other kids. That's a story that will get picked up and talked about, because it is relevant and interesting to parents of young children everywhere.
When it comes to word of mouth, you need to ask yourself, what is something about my brand that can really inspire a conversation? Who are the people who will want to have this conversation? And where do they congregate? If you can answer these three questions, your company is well on its way to inspiring the consumer-to-consumer conversations that will increase sales, drive growth and inspire long-term customer loyalty.